Planning the perfect Easter break
Holidays are great, of course, but if you’re unlucky you could spend half your Easter holiday stuck in traffic and the other half in the World’s worst motel.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. In fact, there’s no need to scarper off and scour the internet for answers because we’ve sorted it all for you. We’ll help you find out exactly how to plan your break, whether you’re thinking of having a holiday inland or jetting off to a far-flung country.
We’ll show you how to beat the rush, save money, and find fun things to do to make this the most hassle-free Easter break ever.
Relaxing in your own country
Are you planning to travel in your home country this Easter? Then the sooner you book, the better the deal you’re likely to get. The cheapest travel tickets are the ones booked far in advance, so the later you leave it, the more you’ll have to pay.
If time’s marching on, however, you can still avoid the worst prices – avoid travelling on a Friday or Saturday, for instance, avoid peak-hour travelling and point your browser to The Trainline (or TrainTicket if you’re in the US) to find the most affordable train fares, Moneysavingexpert.com for bus fares or Kelkoo Travel for plane tickets.
Need somewhere to stay? Genuine bargains will always be snapped up quickly, so the sooner you look, the more you’re likely to save. We’ve found Laterooms, Expedia and Lastminute.com to be particularly good for finding last-minute hotel deals, and the Groupon.
The big-name websites tend to offer big-name accommodation, but if you’d rather find a B&B or a self-catering cottage, then the I Know network is a good place to look. There are sites for specific areas – iknow-london.co.uk for London and so on.
If you’d rather sleep in the fresh air, Cool Camping is a nifty search engine for people who prefer to sleep under canvas, and it’s easy to find sites that are kid-friendly or happy to accept pets. If you prefer to venture off the beaten track, the forums at GoXplore are full of helpful sorts.
User reviews can be invaluable when you’re thinking of booking accommodation or a campsite. They can give you a feel for the location, back up the claims made in the brochure or warn you that the camp site’s actually in the middle of a toxic waste dump. TripAdvisor is by far the biggest collection of accommodation reviews, but be wary of overly gushing or overly critical reviews when everyone else’s comments are more measured.
While it’s illegal for firms to pretend they’re customers and write their own reviews or rubbish their competitors online, it does still happen, so take such reviews with a large pinch of salt.
How to beat the Easter traffic jams
With everyone travelling at the same time on the same roads to the same destinations, it’s no surprise that holiday traffic is often horrible. Thank goodness for Bing Maps, which can help to make your trip as stress-free as possible by working out the easiest and fastest route.
If you’re driving, Bing Maps can calculate the fastest route to take between two or more points, and it can help you avoid toll roads or motorways. It can calculate walking routes, too, and in cities like London it can show you where the Underground/Metro stations are. Bing can also show Ordnance Survey maps, as well as road or street maps.
Things get more interesting when an organisation adds its own data to Bing Maps. The RAC’s UK Traffic Information map verlays details of congestion and accidents on the Bing interface.
Google Maps also includes traffic information, giving you a good idea of how to avoid any traffic jams while you’re on your way to your Easter vacation.
Bright ideas for kids this Easter
Those who prefer staycations to vacations can still thrill the kids. We’d start with Netmums, whose website can help find anything from decent soft play areas to theme parks in the local area.
Day Out With The Kids is quite good at finding larger attractions, such as science parks, country parks, water theme parks and educational attractions, while every local and national newspaper on the planet seems to publish a ‘things to do with the kids’ feature each holiday – a quick web search for that phrase will uncover them.
The words ‘fun’ and ‘local council’ don’t tend to go together, but most councils’ websites are treasure troves of things to do, from swimming pools and parks to museums and music festivals.
English, Welsh and Northern Irish parents should check out the National Trust for details of castles, picnic places and other wholesome days out; the Scottish equivalent is the National Trust for Scotland.
Cutting the cost
Days out can be pricey, but there are ways to save money. If you find yourself visiting lots of RSPB or National Trust sites, membership can save you a packet on admission prices, and if you fancy doing something in London and can travel by train, Days Out Guide is packed with two-for-one offers for attractions including hotels, museums, animal attractions and theatres.
It’s a voucher system – book your train tickets and you can request 2-for-1 vouchers for your chosen attraction. Vouchers are valid for the same period as your tickets, so if you’ve booked travel into London on the Monday and back home on Friday, your vouchers are valid for that Monday to Friday.
AirMiles are well worth having because in addition to using them for full or part payment for flights you can also use them to pay for hotels, tourist attractions and theme parks. It’s too late to start collecting AirMiles for this Easter – you need to spend a fair bit to get a reasonable number of miles – but by this time next year you could have enough miles to save a packet.
Off the beaten track
If tourist traps, castles and other traditional destinations don’t appeal, why not try something different? Geocaching – hightech hiding and seeking – is something anyone with a portable GPS device, a GPS-enabled smartphone or Google Maps and a printer can enjoy. The idea is simple: somebody posts the co-ordinates of something interesting to a site such as GeoCaching.com, and other people use their GPS to find it.
If you don’t have a GPS device, simply paste the co-ordinates into Bing or Google Maps to get directions. In many cases geocaching is a real-life Easter egg hunt, with cache creators building elaborate puzzles that require you to go to a particular place and find an item, at which point your next destination will be revealed in the form of another puzzle.
You really need a GPS-enabled device for these caches, although if your smartphone can run Bing Maps you should be fine – as long as the area has mobile data coverage. One such puzzle needs you to visit a Roman ruin and read a plaque before navigating to a point whose location includes 55.ABC – where A is the distance between the old Roman forts, B is the number of letters in the word at the top of the plaque and C is the width of the wall’s stone base.
All the information is on the plaque, but until you’ve put it all together, you won’t know where to go next. It’s a fantastic way to explore the country.
How to keep the kids happy when it rains
Let’s face it, it’s going to rain (certainly in the UK). So what do you do when rain stops play? There are plenty of sites offering bright ideas for children: Patterns For Colouring offers printable images for colouring in; while Show Me has an excellent collection of ideas including dinosaur masks and games that disguise their educational benefits.
You can use your PC to create new games, too. It’s easy to bash together some treasure hunt clues in Microsoft Word, printing them off and posting them around the house. And if you’ve got a digital camera handy, you could send the kids off on a photography mission, copying the results into Windows Live Photo Gallery.
If all else fails, there’s always TV – but that doesn’t mean putting the kids in front of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for hours. The CBBC website is a joy, and TV sites for pre-school kids can be particularly good.
The BBC’s cBeebies website is packed with worthy-but-fun content, including games and a kid-friendly version of iPlayer.
>> Source: TechRadar